Identification, Images, & Information
For Insects, Spiders & Their Kin
For the United States & Canada

Suborder Heteroptera - True Bugs

Assassin bug? If so, what kind? - Rhynocoris ventralis Southern Green Stink Bug - Nezara viridula - male - female Immature plant/leaf hopper? Possibly Pronotacantha annulata Uhler posing on a potato vine plant - Pronotacantha annulata Hemipteran - Cosmopepla lintneriana insect072117 - Oebalus pugnax Unknown beetle - Melanolestes picipes QAL Bug - Corimelaena
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Hemiptera (True Bugs, Cicadas, Hoppers, Aphids and Allies)
Suborder Heteroptera (True Bugs)
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Formerly treated as a separate order called Hemiptera or Heteroptera; now considered a part of the re-defined order Hemiptera
7 infraorders, with ca. 3850 spp. in ~680 genera of 45 families north of Mexico(1) and >42,000 spp. in almost 6,000 genera of ~90 families worldwide(2); there are >420 spp. of aquatic and semi-aquatic bugs in our area and close to 6,000 spp. worldwide(3)
Genera not yet in the Guide are listed in(4)
Overview of Nearctic families [* –taxa not yet in the guide; classification and stats from(2)]:
Suborder Heteroptera
Infraorder Enicocephalomorpha: ~430 spp. in 65 genera worldwide; families *Aenictopecheidae, Enicocephalidae
Infraorder Dipsocoromorpha: ~340 spp. in ~60 genera worldwide; families Ceratocombidae, *Dipsocoridae, Schizopteridae + 2 tiny Oriental/African families
Infraorder Gerromorpha: semiaquatic; >2,100 spp. in ~160 genera worldwide; 4 superfamilies:
Gerroidea: families Gerridae, Veliidae + one small Indo-Pacific family
Hebroidea: families Hebridae, Macroveliidae + one family with just 2 spp. in so. Africa
Infraorder Nepomorpha: aquatic; >2,300 spp. in 140 genera worldwide; 5 superfamilies:
Naucoroidea: families Naucoridae + 2 minor tropical families (one restricted to the Old World)
Notonectoidea: families Notonectidae, Pleidae + one exotic family
Infraorder Leptopodomorpha: riparian/intertidal (with few exceptions); ~340 spp. in ~60 genera worldwide; 2 superfamilies:
Leptopodoidea: families Leptopodidae and a tiny Old World family
Saldoidea: families Saldidae and one monotypic Palaearctic family
Infraorder Cimicomorpha: terrestrial; ~20,600 spp. in >2,700 genera worldwide; 7 superfamilies (one monotypic superfamily is restricted to se. Mediterranean):
Cimicoidea: families Anthocoridae, Cimicidae, Lyctocoridae, Lasiochilidae, *Polyctenidae, and one small exotic family
Naboidea: families Nabidae and one monotypic African family
Reduvioidea: families Reduviidae and one small tropical family
*Velocipedoidea: families *Curaliidae (a single species, se. US) + one small Oriental family
Infraorder Pentatomomorpha: terrestrial, mostly herbivorous; worldwide, >16,200 spp. in >2,600 genera of 42 families; 6 superfamilies (one superfamily of 2 tiny families is restricted to Australia and so. South America):
Aradoidea: families Aradidae + a small termitophilous family, mostly Neotropical
Coreoidea: families Alydidae, Coreidae, Rhopalidae + 2 small Old World families
Pentatomoidea: families Acanthosomatidae, Cydnidae, Pentatomidae, Plataspididae, Scutelleridae, Thyreocoridae + 10 minor exotic, mostly tropical families
1-65 mm
Characteristics of Heteroptera(5)(6):
Gradual or incomplete metamorphosis
Juveniles (nymphs) resemble adults, but may vary in coloration; wingpads become larger in successive molts
Soft or hard-bodied, often dorsoventrally flattened
Typically two pairs of wings in adult: forewings (hemelytra) are partly thick and protective, and partly membranous
Hindwings are typically fully membranous and function in flight, though many species are wingless
Apical portions of forewings overlap at rest
Scutellum is prominent (also in beetles)
Mouthparts are of piercing/sucking type
Antennae, when not hidden, have 4-5 segments
Ocelli present in some groups
Most groups have thoracic scent glands used for defense
General identification manuals:(7)(8); keys to aquatic bugs in(9)(10)(11)(12); a simple, well-illustrated online key to families in(13)
infraorders Nepomorpha, Gerromorpha, and Leptopodomorpha (the latter with few exceptions) are entirely composed of aquatic, semiaquatic, or shore bugs; the remaining groups are entirely terrestrial and occupy a wide variety of habitats
most species feed on plant juices, many are predators, some are mixed feeders, a few are parasites (blood-sucking)
Life Cycle
Gradual or incomplete metamorphosis (no pupa stage); juveniles (nymphs) resemble adults except they usually have reduced wings and are incapable of flight.
Some are considered agricultural or household pests; info on economically important spp. in(14)
See Also
Beetles (Coleoptera)
Cicadas, hoppers, and allies (Auchenorryncha)
How to tell a bug from a beetle:
[copied from Jim McClarin's comment on an image no longer available]
The first thing I look at is the antennae. If they are long-to-medium length but have fewer than six segments (4-5), then it's a bug. Beetles have many more segments (antennomeres) in their antennae. Often in bugs the end antennomere is a lot longer than the rest and you can see the angle of the bend, sorta like this:

/ \
\ /

Another thing to look for is pinching mandibles on a beetle's mouthparts and a piercing, sucking mouthparts on bugs that is usually folded back against their underside.
Finally, many bugs have quite apparent half wingcovers that, together with their triangular scutellum (between the forward portion of the wingcovers), forms an X shape.
However, in some bugs (Scutelleridae, Thyreocoridae) the scutellum is so large that it covers nearly the entire wing area. These bugs have tiny wingcovers at the sides of their backs and lack the wingcover suture of a beetle running down the middle of the back.
Print References
Internet References
Die Wanzen Europas (The true bugs of Europe) by A. Grau & D. Koehler --representatives of all the holarctic families at a glance
Danish bugs(18)
European Bugs --large photo gallery with reliable IDs
Works Cited
1.Catalog of the Heteroptera, or True Bugs of Canada and the Continental United States
Thomas J. Henry, Richard C. Froeschner. 1988. Brill Academic Publishers.
2.Biodiversity of the Heteroptera
Henry T.J. 2009. In: Foottit R.G., Adler P.H., eds. Insect biodiversity: Science and society. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell: 223-263.
3.Global diversity of true bugs (Heteroptera; Insecta) in freshwater
Polhemus J.T., Polhemus D.A. 2008. Freshwater Animal Diversity Assessment. Developments in Hydrobiology 198: 379-391.
4.Wanzenverzeichnis: Heteroptera Wish List [genera]
5.American Insects: A Handbook of the Insects of America North of Mexico
Ross H. Arnett. 2000. CRC Press.
6.Photographic Atlas of Entomology and Guide To Insect Identification
James L. Castner. 2000. Feline Press.
7.Heteroptera of Eastern North America
W.S. Blatchley. 1926. The Nature Publishing Company.
8.How to Know the True Bugs
Slater, James A., and Baranowski, Richard M. 1978. Wm. C. Brown Company.
9.Identification manual for the aquatic and semi-aquatic Heteroptera of Florida
Epler J.H. 2006. FL Dept. Env. Prot., Tallahassee, FL. 186 pp.
10.Bright E. (2002-2011) Aquatic Insects of Michigan
11.Clifford H.F. (1991) Aquatic invertebrates of Alberta
12.The aquatic and semi-aquatic Hemiptera of Virginia
Bobb M.L. 1974. Insects of Virginia 7, iv+195 pp.
13.Choate P.M. (YYYY) Identification key to the principal families of Florida Heteroptera
14.Heteroptera of economic importance
Schaefer C.W., Panizzi A.R. (eds). 2000. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, 828 pp.
15.Encyclopedia of South American aquatic insects: Hemiptera-Heteroptera: illustrated keys to known families, genera, and species
Heckman C.W. 2011. Springer. ix+679 pp.
16.Liste des punaises du Québec et des régions adjacentes (Hemiptera: Heteroptera)
Roch J.-F. 2014. Entomofaune du Québec inc. 40 pp.
17.Pilon et al. (1988-2015) Entomofaune du Québec
18.Skipper L. (2003-2012) Danmarks Blomstertæger